Title page for ETD etd-10272010-151848

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Williamson, Richard Dean
Author's Email Address rwil112@lsu.edu
URN etd-10272010-151848
Title Berlin & the Origins of Detente: Multilateral & Bilateral Negotiation in the Berlin Crisis, 1958-1963
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Culbert, David Committee Chair
Shindo, Charles Committee Member
Paskoff, Paul Committee Member
Royster, Charles Committee Member
Song, Edward Dean's Representative
  • Kennedy
  • Eisenhower
  • Khrushchev
  • detente
  • disarmament
  • Soviet Union
  • NATO
Date of Defense 2010-10-12
Availability unrestricted
"Berlin & the Origins of Detente" is a diplomatic history of the Berlin Crisis from 1958-1963. 'Berlin Crisis' usually means the events surrounding construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961. The Wall, erected just two months after US President John Kennedy and the Soviet Union's Chairman Nikita Khrushchev met at Vienna, physically divided East Berlin from the Western sectors of the US, Britain and France, who kept occupation forces under the 1945 Potsdam accords.

This work covers the events leading up to the Wall and after, when the focus shifted from multilateral Allied diplomacy in the Eisenhower-era to bilateral US-Soviet engagement in the Kennedy period. Salient events include the 1959 Geneva foreign ministers conference and Western ministers/head of state meetings principally concerned with Berlin. It covers ambassadorial meetings, papers and proposals, correspondence and historiography based on Khrushchev, Eisenhower and other leaders, European and Allied issues.

The Wall was the most visible part of a dispute between the Soviet Union and the United States, Britain and France who occupied West Berlin. In 1958, Khrushchev issued an ultimatum to the West: end the occupation of West Berlin, turn it into an open 'free city' and recognize the (Eastern) German Democratic Republic through a 'peace treaty' that would supersede the Potsdam agreement. Principals displayed a readiness to use force if necessary, to defend their position, but attempted a diplomatic approach to resolve the Berlin issue, which was related to disarmament.

Berlin acted as a catalyst in the US, USSR and Allied relationships. Diplomatic approaches lessened tensions and brought brief, tentative periods of detente. Negotiation renewed US-Soviet diplomatic engagement and provided a precedent for later attempts at detente, which were more centered on disarmament. No other issue led to summit conferences or engaged the US, Allies and Soviet Union so intently.

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